Architectural Drawings and Records

From skyscrapers to bungalows, the Museum houses an extensive collection of architectural drawings, as well as architecture-related documents, photographs, models, and building fragments that reflect metropolitan Chicago’s built environment and the creative output of Chicago’s premier and lesser-known architectural firms.

About the Collection

Architectural drawings in the collection date from the 1870s to the present. The vast majority of drawings are working drawings on drafting linen or tracing paper, but the collection also contains design sketches and rendered presentation drawings. Documents may include job files, correspondence, ledgers, and field notes. Photographs document completed buildings, construction phases, and research images for project development. Where possible, the entire archives of architectural firms or architects, not just individual drawings or projects, as well as business papers of builders, construction engineering firms, and real estate development companies have been collected.

The approximately seventy architectural models in the collection vary widely by size and original purpose; some are highly finished presentation models, while others are crude constructions used by the architects to explore design possibilities. The collection also includes approximately 175 fragments from demolished or remodeled buildings, which help the Museum document the city’s built environment as it continues to evolve.

Some of the most frequently requested architectural drawings and records in the Museum’s collection include:

  • Holabird & Roche/Holabird & Root architectural drawings and records, 1885–1980
  • Harry Weese Associates architectural drawings and records, 1952–78
  • C. W. and George L. Rapp/Rapp & Rapp architectural drawings and records, c. 1911–71
  • Architectural records and plats for buildings at Graceland Cemetery, c. 1861–1987

Highlights of the Museum’s architectural model and building fragment holdings include:

  • Model of the Travel and Transportation Building designed by Holabird & Root for the 1933–34 A Century of Progress International Exposition
  • Model of Lake Point Tower designed by Schipporeit-Heinrich, 1968
  • Fragments from the Troescher Building designed by Louis Sullivan, c. 1885
  • Fragment from the Francisco Terrace Apartments designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, 1895
  • Rosette from the Home Insurance Building entrance designed by William Le Baron Jenney, 1885

Research Inquiries and Collection Access

Researching Architectural Drawings and Records

The majority of the architecture-related prints, photographs, documents, drawings, and published materials in the collection are available to the public for research through the Museum’s Abakanowicz Research Center (ARC). The availability of the architectural drawings and records varies by the type of material, a large portion of which are stored off site and/or require advance notice for paging. To search for additional holdings, consult ARCHIE, the ARC’s online catalog. To learn more about how to arrange a research visit, see the ARC page. 

Rights and Reproductions Requests

Images do not exist for all of the items in the Architectural Drawings and Records holdings. Requests for new photography may occasionally be accommodated for an additional fee; however, the Museum reserves the right to limit new photography based on an item’s condition, storage location, size, and other factors. For information about obtaining copies or high-quality digital image reproductions of collection materials, see the Rights and Reproductions page. Note that the Museum’s ability to reproduce requested materials may be limited by US copyright law. 

Donate to the Collection

The vast majority of our Architectural Drawings and Records holdings were donated to the Museum. If you would like to donate historical papers, records, or other documents related to Chicago history or American history (through the Civil War), please fill out and submit the Online Collection Donation Form.

Support the Collection

The Museum requires ongoing resources to maintain its collection of more than 23 million objects and documents. This work includes cataloging, storing, and preserving the collections – and the specialized activity necessary to make this unique resource available for use in exhibitions, publications, public programs, scholarly research, and loans to other institutions. We encourage you to consider making a financial contribution to help support this important work.

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